The Vermont Shamrocks often played the fall portion of their 16U Girls Tier II season without their full lineup intact.
When the team reconvened for the USA Hockey New England District Tournament, coach Steve Young saw a team with a familiar look.
The Shamrocks, last season’s national runner-up, rolled through five district games, winning them all with a combined margin of 19-2 to advance to the Chipotle-USA Hockey Girls Nationals, April 5-9 in Marlborough, Massachusetts.
“I was very surprised at how similar this year’s team looked, once we reformed this spring, to last year’s team,” Young said. “I think we’re pretty fast. The girls are extremely talented and we really moved the puck well.
“When we’re moving the puck well and the passes are precise, with our speed, we play well and we’re a tough team.”
The Shamrocks have a 19-player roster, which includes 11 players from last year’s team at nationals.
Both goalies, Leo Clark and Madeleine Hungerford, return, along with defensemen Elizabeth Dukas, Annika LaGue and Bella Parento and forwards Alexis Bartlett, Elizabeth Hill, Allyson LaGue, Emilie Prive, McKenna Remillard and Madeline Young.
The Shamrocks were rolling in Troy, Michigan, a year ago in pursuit of their second national title at this age group in a five-year span and the organization’s third overall after winning the 19U title in 2016.
Vermont shut out five straight opponents to reach the championship game.
The wins included 1-0 over the eventual national champion Anchorage North Stars in the tournament opener, then 2-0 over the Livonia Knights and 15-0 over the Utah Lady Grizzlies to complete pool play.
Victories over the Princeton Tiger Lilies, 6-0, in the quarterfinals and the Wisconsin Selects, 2-0, in the semifinals set up the rematch with Anchorage.
A three-goal flurry by the North Stars in the second period led to a 3-1 loss that sent the Shamrocks home as silver medalists.
“It was definitely close out there,” Young said. “It was kind of sad to walk away without [a title].
“You look back and, as far as we went and what we did out there, we’re definitely proud as an organization. Maybe the girls will have some luck with them and we’ll continue playing the kind of hockey like we’ve played coming out of regionals.”
Allyson LaGue scored five goals to tie for the tournament lead at nationals. Leo Clark led the tournament in both wins and shutouts with three each. Hungerford did not allow a goal in her two games. Bartlett and Remillard shared the team lead in the event with four assists.
The Shamrocks players spent the winter on five different high school teams.
Hill, Remillard, Dukas, Hungerford and forward Meghan Connor all won a state title together at Bellows Free Academy in St. Albans.
The team arrived in Maine for the March district tournament where, reminiscent of last year’s nationals performance, it outscored three round-robin opponents, 14-0.
After a second straight, 1-0 win over Casco Bay in the semifinals, the Shamrocks gave up their first goals of the tournament, but defeated the Shoreline Sharks from Connecticut, 4-2.
The win left the Shamrocks with a 16-8-3 record with the bulk of that competition coming in the fall and some of it against 19U teams.
The Shoreline Sharks also wound up making it to nationals after receiving one of the 16U tournament’s at-large bids.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.